Speedier cutting of toe-kick notches

Techniques for quickening this necessary element of cabinet part machining. July 18, 2000

I have just started building cabinets and have most of the operations fairly well steamlined but I am looking for a better way of cutting out the toe kick notches in the side panels. I currently mark them with a square and cut them with a jigsaw. It seems like there should be a faster way.

There are dedicated machines using dual saws that cut the notches quickly and accurately. They’re big-budget items for a small shop, but there are low-budget alternatives.

You can set up the table saw to make each cut, and allow the over-cut to show on the hidden side of the workpiece. You can also set up a hand, overhead, or inverted router (with appropriate fixtures) to perform the same operation relatively efficiently.

I’d recommend that you abandon the notches altogether. Build a sub-base for runs of cabinets from waste ply strips or low-grade ply cut specifically for this purpose, or use European leg levelers. Here are the advantages:

- Your yield of high-quality cabinet ply usually goes up from four base sides per 4-by-8 sheet to six pieces per sheet.

- You can incorporate toe space under ends of cabinets. Your customers will appreciate the toe room, and decorative end panels are easily accommodated.

- Installation is typically faster, especially using the levelers, which work with equal effectiveness in Euro and face-frame construction.
Michael Poster, technical advisor

Back before I got into CNCs, we used our bandsaw. An L-shaped plate mounted to the table as a guide for the edges of the workpiece allowed us to make one cut, spin the workpiece, and make the other. Very simple, very fast, with a pretty good quality cut.

If the height and depth were different we would piano hinge a flip stop to adapt the L to the necessary dimensional difference.

You can use a Pistorius double miter saw to make the cutouts
in one operation. We see these saws with either 10- or 12-inch blades
quite frequently at auctions. I do not know what one goes for new. There are several other manufacturers who make a similiar saw.

From the original questioner:
I would like to know where I could find out more info on using cabinet levelers like Michael suggested.

Leg levelers are available from many of the suppliers listed in the hardware section of WOODWEB's Industry Index.

The levelers are very easy to install - just a few screws through a round flange secures them to the cabinet bottom. The leveling leg screws into the flange, allowing a good range of adjustment. Each leg comes with a clip that is inserted into a groove cut in the back of the toe board, and then the board can be snapped onto the leg. This system allows the board to be removed if necessary.

Our installer would fasten blocks to the floor and fasten cabinets to these, in addition to the leg support at islands and peninsulas, to avoid movement of the cabinets.

I'll have to agree with Michael. With or without levelers I have found loose toe kicks to be far easier, from construction to installation. Boxes stack and pack better, and installation layout is simpler.

If you build separate boxes for one continuous run, you can still build one toe-kick platform and at installation level and intall your kick, then just slide the boxes right on and, viola, all is level. You also won't have lower cabinets slipping under the weight of heavy stone countertops.

And to reiterate Michael's point, your raw material efficiency will improve as well.